Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
A prominent figure believes the U.S. dairy industry should be optimistic, despite this shortcoming.
Former United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack now serves as president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). Vilsack, presenting at the 76th annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention, says industry officials are starting to see a rebound for dairy farmers.
“There is good news in the dairy industry. Ninety-four percent of households in the U.S have fluid milk in their refrigerators. Butter consumption is at a 50 year-high; cheese is at a record high, domestically. We’ve seen an increase in exports both in volume and value. Value is up almost a billion dollars more than it was a couple years ago,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack makes note of Dean Foods decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He calls the situation an “unfortunate circumstance,” but does not believe it is reflective of the industry.
“We’re selling the most nutritious product around. As they say, ‘Nature’s most perfect food,’” Vilsack said. “We have an interesting environmental story to tell; dairy farmers are the only farmers that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have an animal welfare program that’s internationally certified. A lot of good news in the dairy business.”
Vilsack says all of this good news stems from recent advancements within the industry.
“This is an industry that has embraced innovation,” Vilsack said. “You’re beginning to see a lot of different products. We just shocked the world, if you will, at the World Cheese Awards. A cheese from Oregon was voted ‘Best Cheese in the World.’ Rogue Creamery, with their bleu cheese, won 131 medals, the highest ever. I think the world is beginning to realize that U.S. dairy and U.S. cheeses are quality.”
Vilsack adds, “The long-term future looks good for the U.S. dairy industry,” which sets its sights on opportunities for increased exports to Japan, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Canada.